|U.S. Special Operations Forces have a brand new home in Afghanistan. It’s owned and operated by the security company formerly known as Blackwater, thanks to a no-bid deal worth $22 million.
You might think that Blackwater, now called Academi, was banished into some bureaucratic exile after its operatives in Afghanistan stole guns from U.S. weapons depots and killed Afghan civilians. Wrong. Academi’s private 10-acre compound outside Kabul, called Camp Integrity, is the new headquarters for perhaps the most important special operations unit in Afghanistan.
That would be the Special Operations Joint Task Force–Afghanistan, created on July 1 to unite and oversee the three major spec-ops “tribes” throughout Afghanistan, which command some 7,000 elite troops in all. It’s run by Army Maj. Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas, a former deputy commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, and is already tasked with reforming how those elite forces train Afghan villagers to fight the Taliban. And its role is only going to grow in Afghanistan, as regular U.S. forces withdraw by 2014 and the commandos take over the residual task of fighting al-Qaida and its allies. Perhaps that’s why Academi’s no-bid contract runs through May 2015.
Academi spokeswoman Kelley Gannon declined to comment for this story. But it’s highly unusual for U.S. military forces to take up official residence on a privately owned facility. According to Lt. Col. Tom Bryant, the spokesman for Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan, it’s only supposed to be temporary, as the command plans to move to Bagram Air Field by summer 2013. But Camp Integrity is already shaping up to be a crucial location for an Afghanistan war that’s rapidly changing.[...]
Academi’s old incarnation, Blackwater, had deep ties to the secretive U.S. special operations community. Founder Erik Prince was a Navy SEAL, and the firm aided the Joint Special Operations Command with counterterrorism targeting and “snatch and grab” operations in Pakistan. But while the new ownership of the rebranded Academi has previously emphasized its differences with the old Blackwater regime, some continuities are on display — like how the military’s newly expanded spy service will rely on Academi for self-defense training.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009—Baucus Nominated Mistress for U.S. Attorney:
|Add Max Baucus to the list of all-too typical politicians:
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ office confirmed late Friday night that the Montana Democrat was carrying on an affair with his state office director, Melodee Hanes, when he nominated her to be U.S. attorney in Montana.
According to a source familiar with their relationship, Hanes and Baucus began their relationship in the summer of 2008 – nearly a year before Baucus and his wife, Wanda, formally separated in April. The Senator has since divorced his wife.
Hanes ended her employment with Baucus in the spring of this year.
The learning curve among politicians on these things is, well, non-existent. They just don't learn. The relationship wasn't the cause of either party's divorces, Baucus's spokesman says, and Baucus didn't help her get her current position in the Justice Department. Nonetheless, this is a development Dems really did not need, given Baucus's prominent role in the healthcare reform debate, and the number of difficulties they're already dealing with.
On today's Kagro in the Morning show: continuing attacks on Susan Rice; too soon to ponder 2016?; new PPP poll on Gop nuttery, and of course; more on filibuster reform. In particular, does the 2005 nuclear option fight compare to today's filibuster reform? And why do editorial writers, misty-eyed for the days of the "Gang of 14" agreement, forget it enshrined the right to change the rules by majority vote? Finally, the NYT investigation into the value and efficacy of government incentives to business.